A City on a Hill: What the Levitical Cities Teach the Church About Glorifying God Together (Joshua 20–21)

joshua07

A City on a Hill: What the Levitical Cities Teach the Church About Glorifying God

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called his followers a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14–16). This title has often been used to speak of America, as well as other institutions of moral influence. Yet, it is most appropriately applied to the church. This is seen throughout the New Testament (cf. 1 Peter 2), but we also find this idea in the Old Testament.

In this week’s sermon on Joshua 20–21, Israel’s role spreading God’s light to the nations is seen in the cities God established for refuge and instruction. In fact, by learning about the purposes the cities of refuge (Josh. 20) and Levitical cities (Josh. 21), we learn much about God’s purposes for his people. This has historical relevance for understanding the nation of Israel. But it also has theological application for Christ and his new covenant people.

You can listen to this sermon online. Discussion questions are additional resources are available below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

God’s Treasure Map: An Invitation to Imagine Your Inheritance (Joshua 13–19)

joshua07

God’s Treasure Map: An Invitation to Imagine Your Inheritance (Joshua 13–19)

As the famed Puritan, Matthew Henry, begins his commentary on Joshua 13:1, he writes, “We are not to skip over these chapters of hard names as useless and not to be regarded.” Why? Because “ where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write we should find an ear to hear and an eye to read.”

This is a good reminder as we venture into seven chapters composed of lists, boundary markers, and land distributions. In comparison to the exciting action of Israel’s military conquests in Joshua 1–12, Joshua 13–19 seems, well, . . . dull. But its dullness depends entirely on our inability to appreciate what these chapters meant to Israel.

For centuries, Israel had waited to receive its long-promised inheritance. And now, that the gift of the land had come, Joshua 13–19 tells the contents of this treasure and the placement of God’s people in the land. What was once promised to Abraham, is now coming to fulfillment in the days of Joshua.

For us today, this passage is equally exciting when we consider the inheritance promised to us in Christ—an inheritance we still look for in the new heavens and the new earth. Thus, these chapters should not bore us with their detail; they should stir excitement in our own hope of heaven—i.e., a heaven on earth when Christ returns.

Indeed, this is how I pursued these chapters in Sunday’s sermon. Rather than taking a microscope to each verse, we looked at them as a whole. Instead of devoting a sermon to each chapter we looked at  Joshua 13–19 as a ’treasure map’ to better understand our inheritance in Christ.

You can listen to this sermon online. Discussion questions can be found below.

Discussion Questions

Continue reading

The Last Battle: Five Portraits of Warfare for Life in an Embattled World (Joshua 11–12)

joshua07The Last Battle: Five Portraits of Warfare for Life in an Embattled World

Sometimes reading the Old Testament is difficult because it is so far away and so different from today. But other times, we see in the struggles of Israel and actions of God experiences that mirror (or even foreshadow) our own. On Sunday, that was certainly the case, as finished the first half of Joshua.

In Joshua 11–12 we found the conclusion of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. And in these two chapters we saw five portraits of war that provide us with five principles for life.

Importantly, these principles are not just for life in general, but for life in a fallen and embattled world. Truly, our lives are enmeshed in a spiritual battle and Joshua 11–12 helps us see how to fight the fight of faith. You can find the sermon here and response questions and additional resources below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Response Questions

  1. How is the gathering of armies in verses 1-5 different from what Israel has faced previously? How does God counsel Joshua? (v. 6)
  2. What is significant about Moses’ command? (11:12–15)
  3. How should we understand this battle in light of God’s sovereignty? (11:20)
  4. What does this battle (chapter 11) and these victories (chapter 12) teach us about the Lord?
  5. What truths and attributes of God do you observe in this narrative?
  6. How ought we to respond to these truths?

Additional Resources

On Joshua

On Spiritual Warfare

 

 

The Last Battle: 10 Things About Joshua 11–12

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashIn Joshua 11–12 we come to the close of the first section of Joshua. Here are ten things about those two chapters.

1. Joshua 11 repeats the same pattern as Joshua 10 . . . but faster.

Joshua 11:1 begins just like Joshua 5:1; 9:1; and 10:1. In each chapter, kings from Canaan “heard” of the exploits of Israel and Israel’s God. At first “the kings of the Amorites” feared the Lord (5:1), but then others sought to fight Israel (9:1; 10:1; 11:1). The difference in responses, it seems, is because Ai defeated defeated Israel when Achan sinned. A consequence of that debacle was an increase in hostility (and confidence) among the kings of Canaan.

This surge of confidence is what initiated the clash of Israel and the nations in chapters 10–11. And between these two chapters, we find a literary parallel. As Kenneth Mathews observes,

Chapters 10 and 11 have a general correspondence: both begin with a coalition of enemy kings (10:1–5; 11:1–5); both describe their respective battles (10:6–39; 11:6–11); and both contain a summary of the fallen (10:40–43; 11:12–23). There are details are similar, such as the Lord’s explicit directive to engage the enemy and the author’s attribution of the victory to the Lord (10:8, 14; 11:6, 8). (Mathews, Joshua102–03)

At the same time, there are differences between the chapters; the greatest difference being the speed with which Joshua 11 covers the material. In this chapter, “only one town is described in detail and there are no lengthy descriptions of a chase or of miracles. This suggests an acceleration in the narrative. Moving ever more quickly, the text completes the description of the conquest” (Hess, Joshua227–28).

This faster pace reminds us how biblical narratives are written. They are not intended to cover everything. Instead, in their selectiveness, they point the reader to the important (read: theological) facets of the story. For readers today, comparing chapters 10–11 helps us see how Joshua is written and what these battles reveal about God. Continue reading

The Lord is a Warrior (Joshua 10)

joshua07The Lord is a Warrior (Joshua 10)

Standing on the shores of the Red Sea, with Pharaoh’s army buried under the water, Moses leads Israel to praise God for his powerful victory. And in Exodus 15:1–3, he sings,

1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.

This song of Moses rejoices in the God who defeated Pharaoh and his army. And inspired by the Holy Spirit, God teaches us who he is and how we are to worship him. As verse 3 says, “The Lord is a warrior” and he deserves our praise as such.

Today, this image of God as a warrior is not often appreciated. Instead, God, and especially God the Son, is presented in softer colors. As Dale Ralph Davis has put it, “The popular image of Jesus is that he is not only kind and tender but also soft and prissy, as though Jesus comes to us reeking of hand cream” (Joshua, 88).

Think what you will of hand cream, but the truth remains—Jesus as victorious warrior has been replaced by Jesus as a mild-mannered, emotive counselor. Certainly, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor and one who knows our pains and plight, but he is also a strong and mighty ruler whose enemies are being put under his feet every day.

In Sunday’s sermon, we considered God as a Warrior. From Joshua 10, we saw how the LORD rained down hailstones on the wicked and went to war, defending his people. Moreover, we saw how Joshua, God’s Savior, prayed and judged—two themes that must be kept with salvation. All in all, Joshua 10 presents a corrective to any view of Jesus that only thinks of him in sentimental terms.

You can listen to the sermon here. Response questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading

His Mercy is More: God’s Surprising Kindness to Liars and Self Reliars (Joshua 9)

joshua07His Mercy is More: God’s Surprising Kindness to Liars and Self Reliars

Lies and liars. Our world is filled with them, and we often struggle to know what to do with them. This is true when are deceived, but it is also true when we are the deceiver.

On Sunday we saw another deception story in Joshua. And to play on words—Joshua 9 teaches us again that (first) looks can be deceiving. For instead of seeing how the lies of Gibeon are met with swift punishment, we find that God’s mercy overshadows their wrongdoing. At the same time, we also learn how Israel’s self-reliance is covered by the wise mercy of Joshua. Thus, in this chapter we find great hope for liars and self-reliars, which is to say we find hope for all of us!

To see how Joshua 9 leads us to appreciate more of God’s mercy and to become more merciful, you can listen to the sermon online. You can also find response questions and further resources below.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading

His Mercy is More: 10 Things about Joshua 9

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplash

After a week away from outlining the details of Joshua, we return to see in Joshua 9 ten things about God’s mercy.

1. The theme of Joshua 9 is mercy.

While geographical and personal details, not to mention extended dialogue, fills Joshua 9, the main message is one of God’s mercy. This is mildly surprising since God does not speak in this chapter and the people of Israel don’t seek his counsel. However, that the people of Gibeon are not destroyed but given a place of service in God’s tabernacle is strong indication of the mercy that God has for people marked out for destruction.

As Kenneth Mathews notes, “Because of their service to the Lord at the tabernacle, they [the Gibeonites] live at the centerpiece of Israel’s unity and worship.” In other words, “by grace those initially outside the covenant are brought near to God” (Mathews, Joshua, 84). Continue reading

Inerrancy and Interpretation: Kevin Vanhoozer on Map-Making and the Meaning of God’s Word

london
What is inerrancy? And what does it mean for a picture to be true? And what does it mean for the Bible, which is filled with pictures (similes, metaphors, parables, etc.) to be inerrant?

For those who affirm biblical inerrancy, as I do, questions like these enter into a wide-ranging debate about Scripture and hermeneutics. This is especially true when we appreciate how the truth of the Bible is not grounded in logical abstractions or mathematical proofs; it is grounded in the triune God who has spoken of himself in a book that comes together as a progressively revealed story. In other words, truth in the Bible is unlike any other book. It is not only God’s truth, but in a book composed of various genres, its truth is also conveyed through forms of speech whose truth is not easily ascertained or readily appreciated.

Again, what does it mean for a picture to be true? (For an interesting look at this problem from a wholly different angle, see Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Picture Problem“).

In Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and WisdomKevin Vanhoozer has an illuminating chapter on the nature and function of Scripture with special attention to the doctrine of inerrancy. Moving the conversation about inerrancy beyond claims of veracity, he rightly documents what Scripture is (its ontology) and what Scripture does (its function).

In what follows, I want to share his nine qualifications about inerrancy and give a short summary of each point. For clarity sake, all the enumerated points below are his; the expansions are mine with multiple quotations from his chapter. Continue reading

Remembering Baptism: Israel’s, Jesus’s, and Yours (Joshua 3–4)

joshua07Remembering Baptism: Israel’s, Jesus’s, and Yours (Joshua 3–4)

So far in Joshua, we have seen connections between Joshua and Jesus, as well as Rahab and the Church. These connections remind us how this book of history is written for us on whom the end of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:11; cf. Romans 15:4). Incredibly, the inspired words of the Old Testament are not just Israel’s historical chronicles; they are prophetic messages leading us to Christ (1 Peter 1:10–12).

This week we will see this pattern again.

Widening our gaze to see Israel cross the Jordan River,  Joshua 3–4 shows us how God exalted Joshua by parting the waters and bringing all of Israel into the land. As we saw in this week’s sermon, the memorial of twelve stones is meant for future generations. And for us, we will see how this water passage not only reveals the character of God but also foreshadows the baptism of Jesus and our own baptisms.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and further resources are available below.  Continue reading

A Harlot’s Hope: The Gospel in One Chapter (Joshua 2)

joshua07

A Harlot’s Hope: The Gospel in One Chapter (Joshua 2)

Tamar and Judah. Rahab and Salmon. Ruth and Boaz. Bathsheba and David. The Church and Jesus.

What do these couples have in common? They are all in the Bible? Yes. They are all in Jesus genealogy? Yes.

And most astoundingly, each had a history with harlotry. Respectively, the dress, the (former) identity, or the actions of these couples contain some element related idolatry, adultery, or prostitution.

Finding a place in this redemptive story, Sunday’s sermon considered the incredible story of Rahab and how God saved her from a life of prostitution and a city on the verge of destruction. With many themes that touched on the fabric of salvation, we saw God had mercy on this woman and can have mercy on anyone who believes.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below.

Response Questions

  1. How do the spies of Joshua 2 contrast with the spies of Numbers 13?
  2. What observations can you make about Rahab?
  3. Do any aspects of this story surprise you?
  4. What does Rahab believe about God?
  5. How do you see the mercy of God in this story?
  6. Do you see any significance in the scarlet cord?
  7. What does the New Testament testify about Rahab in Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25?
  8. What truths are visible in this story? What might application of this narrative look like?

Additional Resources